‘Oh. Just. Look. At. Her.’
Micheal stressed each and every syllable of that five word sentence intensely, with a huge glee pasted wide across his face.
We were standing in the corridor, and it was morning break. And Micheal’s eyes had accidentally caught her walking past the corridor on the other side. Honestly though, it wasn’t just an accident. He made sure we stood there at the exact same spot every single day, because he knew she walked past that corridor to get to the cafeteria. (Micheal thinks I don’t know, but I just like to play along sometimes).
She appeared, dressed in a designer anarkali suit, her long straight hair braided into a french plait, and adorned in big chunky earrings and a golden bracelet.
Even as a girl, I had to admit that she looked stunning. She looked flawless and as if she had walked out of a Karan Johar film. That was probably why I hated her.
But Micheal looked at her differently. He looked at her, with love, respect and wonder. I never knew that those three could be put togather until Micheal fell for this B-town beauty.
As he fell, I waited.
I waited for the golden sunshine-like glow to fill his eyes.
That was the best part of it. The light.
His entire face lit up, whenever he talked about her or thought of her or when she appeared in front of him.
There are certain things in life that you can’t simply grow tired of. All of us have that list of things we like watching over and over and over again.
For me, the list includes Rain, Thunderstorms, Trains, Elephants, Lions, Babies and watching Micheal being bitten by the love bug.
Micheal is my best friend, from school and through college. We’ve know each other for almost six years now. We weren’t exactly the stereotyped besties you find on campus.
In fact, never in my wildest dreams did I know that he’d become the most important person in my circle, when I first saw him.
We were sixteen and I was a new girl at school. I still remember every tiny detail of that day. That day, that gloomy and dark day my lion pride was brutally butchered.
It had been a week since classes had started, and it was only earlier that week, that we had written an English test the previous day. As it turns out, Michael had heard from the teacher that the papers had been evaluated.
‘Balakarthiga!’ he called out to me from the last row, during lunch break. I turned around, from the first row, quite surprised that someone was addressing me by my full name on the first week of school.
‘Yes?’ I asked, quite confused by the huge grin that was pasted on his face.
‘You got the second highest mark in English test.’ He said.
‘Oh. So who got the first?’ I asked spontaneously, not being able to sustain the curiosity.
‘Me.’ He dropped the bombshell and walked out of the class.
Guilt and panic rolled in I was shocked for various reasons.
One, I was a new student and it was the first time someone in the alien place had properly addressed me. Two, he had called me out with my full name. And three , I had scored the second highest. Second highest. All along my life, if at all there was something I was extremely good at, it was English and Physics. However, here I was, in a new school and I was already second and insignificant.
I was devastated. My ego burst painfully after that.
I do not remember how we made up, but we did. I mean there have been similar incidents in school that me want to get out a sniper rifle and shoot him, but we some how made up.
Things have changed now. We weren’t in school. We do continue to get into arguments quite often, but in the end, that never drives a wedge between us. We have this ‘agree to disagree’ policy . We both respect our difference of opinions and choices.
(Translation : We were both stubborn strong-headed gits. Nobody can talk some sense into us. Not even each other. )
We were now college graduates, trying to appreciate the fact our friendship thrives on three major facts. My ability to understand that he would, for the rest of our lives, keep beating me in English. His ability to understand that I would, for the rest of our lives, keep beating him in physics. And last, but not the least, our mutual ability to understand that both of us will continue to fail in Maths.
We were now in a corridor, on a December morning, under the dark clouds that looked like they might burst any minute. Nature was setting the scene for him. It hardly looked like ten in the morning. It was dark, and cloudy, the strong monsoon winds, carrying the scent of rain, swept past us. And yet, the girl never took even the slightest notice of him. I just hated her.
Michael, however, was absolutely smitten.
I loved watching him fall in love, all over again because it was so inspiring and completely overwhelming. I was almost a robot with zero feelings, and I did not believe in fairy tales or magic or true love. I believed in campus placements, a good job, and an apartment of my own in Mumbai over looking the sea.
He turned around and beamed at me.
And I knew what that meant. It was her.
The tall Arabic beauty walked past us and his eyes traveled with her, and I could swear he almost tripped over his feet when she vanished after the sharp left turn she took around the corridor.
‘Humma Humma.’ I said trying to suppress a smirk.
‘Yes. Humma Humma.’ He answered, an identical smirk pasted wide across his face. It was our not-so-secret code word for her.
You know how there’s always that one girl in class who looks like she’s definitely in the wrong place? Not because she’s dumb or anything, but she looks like she’s a Miss World Pageant material and she looks like she does not belong in the crappy old college campus filled with nerds trying to solve calculus problems?
You know exactly who I’m talking about, that girl with high heels, fancy Dior bags, big earrings, hair done, make up done. She comes to college everyday as if it were her wedding day. You know she’s coming even if she’s a mile away, because the ‘click-click-click’ of her pointed stilettos is absolutely unmistakable.
You might not have talked with her, you don’t chill out with her, and she’s not even in the gang that you usually hang out. For all you know, she might be a pokemon in disguise.
In short, you know nothing about her.
On a personal note this girl is an absolute disturbance. Especially for girls like me who wear a comfortable cotton kurta with a tight messy pony tail and no makeup whatsoever because we wake up late every single day, she’s an annoyance.
But then, one of your best friends falls for this Mystery lady, and BOOM! She becomes the principle topic of almost all of your conversations and you find yourself wanting to find out everything there is to find out about her.
Chances are that, within a few days of discovering this one sided crush-story, you and your friend will create a code word to identify them and talk loudly about them in public.
Michael and I were idiots, so we used the catchphrase from the super hit 90’s A.R.Rahman song, simply for the reason that the subject-of-consideration was of Arabic ancestry.
Also, she was the only person with an Arabic ancestry in all of campus and the word ‘Humma Humma’ did not make it any obvious at all. (I told you, we were idiots.) And then we have that daily moment of silence, whenever Humma Humma passes us.
After she was out of sight, I turn towards my smitten best friend and decide that it’s time to talk some sense into him.
‘Mate, she doesn’t even know that you exist.’ I said.
‘I know.’ He sighed.
‘I hate to break it to you, but I don’t see this going anywhere.’ I said.
‘I know.’ He shrugged.
‘So, quit it.’ I argued.
He ignored me and continued grinning at the vanishing silhouette. I sighed. The warning did not work. I did not expect it to.
‘She’s the apple from the forbidden tree.’ I said, trying to sound as threatening as possible.
‘What’s the pain in wanting some apple sauce, Bala?’ he winked.
I gave him a death stare. ‘Mike, you are absolutely out of your senses, aren’t you?’
‘Relax, Bala.’ He said. ‘It’s not like I’m going to marry her or something. I just enjoy admiring her. What’s wrong in calling something that’s beautiful, beautiful?’
Typical Michael. Deep, philosophical and truthful.
What worried me though was that, when Michael fell, he fell hard.
He wasn’t just a normal let’s-flirt-and-forget-about-it kinda guy. An average guy’s commitment to a full time relationship was Michael’s level of dedication with a Stage-One Crush.
He had a beautiful heart. I’d seen both sides of it. There had been times when he had been absolutely love-struck. And there was Kyra.
The one girl who had been lucky enough to own his heart for a short span of time, and while she did, she slit it open with a sharp dagger, and slowly butchered the beautiful heart into a excruciating bloody mess.
The very thought of her name made my blood boil.
That heartless wretch was probably the first and last girl to own the shiny beautiful heart of his. Now all that Michael had was a bleeding heart, and that’s what any girl who falls for him later, would get. It did not seem fair to me. He was paying the price for someone else’s mistake.
Kyra was Michael’s first girlfriend.
They were together when we were in school. Theirs seemed like a happy fairy tale kind of love, the typical high school romance, full of dramatic “ ‘You hang up’ and ‘No you hang up first ’” phases.
There’s just one thing we do every single time we get together. We talk. Be it books or religion or movies or philosophy or crushes, I’d rather talk about it to Michael rather than anyone else. I loved to read his write ups and his little personal pieces.
His writings were like tiny bundles of magic to me. They were so true and so full of deep wisdom.
For example, this was how Michael described falling in love with Kyra.
How many of your firsts do you remember, Bala?
The first face you saw, your first word, your first step, your first day at school, the first thing you said to a friend?
Most of that stuff just goes off into a void somewhere, but you also remember a few.
A select few, and she was one.
She was a first I’ll probably always remember. We did have our fair share of firsts. The first conversation, the first date, the first kiss, the first fight, quite a long list of firsts, but the first hug, that was really was something.
How would you feel if you held everything you ever loved?
From your first puppy to your first car, from the teddy you lost when you were five to your favourite piece of music, what if you could hold all of that love in your arms?
That was it for me.
That hug held every last piece of love I’d ever known, and for the few seconds I held her, I had my own piece of heaven.
The way she fit in my arms, the way her breath grazed me, the way her hair brushed my chin, the way her scent filled my very being, it was the happiest I’d been in a long time.
She was there for me when I was stuck in a really bad place in life, when everything seemed lost, and she would set everything right with just a hug.
There was something in her hugs, and words fail me, but it was, for the lack of a better word, magic.
I know for most people, its the first kiss that’s the happiest piece of memory, but for me, it was the hug.
I could’ve lost my entire world, every last piece of anything that ever mattered to me, and I’d still smile when she hugged me.
And that first hug, it was something I’d trade my life for.
He sent that to me via a long text message, and no matter how many times I read it over, I get chills.
I’ve never been in love, but every time I read that piece by him, I have this feeling of warmth and strong spiritual connection that one gets while listening to a 90’s A.R.Rahman sound track.
However, life isn’t always fair, and things do not go the way we expect them to. Plot twist occur, and most of the times, in a very painful way.
A few months later, the news was all over the school.
Kyra had cheated on Michael. They had broken up. At first, I was shocked and refused to believe it. The last time I saw them, they were so close and happy that I was hoping they wouldn’t have a baby already.
‘Is it true?’ I asked him.
He was sitting on the porch, in silence and in solitude. ‘Yes. She cheated on me.’
‘WHAT THE CRAP??’ I shrieked in disbelief.
‘That’s not the way to swear, Bala.’ He gave out a soft and depressed chuckle. ‘Now repeat after me. You say What The F-’
‘Shut up!’ I cut him out angrily. I wanted to kill her.
I did not find any of that funny. He knew he had to stop using sarcasm as a coping method and let it all out. I wasn’t going to leave him in peace until he did.
‘That was exactly what I asked her. ‘Is it true?’ She wouldn’t even look me in the eye, Bala and I knew I had my answer right there.
As a part of me realized what happened, part of me still couldn’t believe she would do that to me.
It was her, was she even capable of such a thing.
It was the first time I’d cried in a long time. When you lose faith, you don’t have much to go on.’ He said.
Volcanoes of anger erupted inside of me, and my blood started to boil with fury. I was so angry that I wanted to kill her and call her mean things.
I was annoyed that he was not even half as angry about it as I was. Maybe that was the problem. Over the months of watching him with her, I had fallen in love with the idea of them falling in love, that I had lost the reality check somewhere in the middle of it all.
I distinctly remember every detail of that evening.
It was the first time I’d seen him so irreparably broken. It shattered my heart.
He did not deserve what was done to him. But there wasn’t much I could do, than hope that he gets better.
Life wasn’t fair.
The memories departed in a quick flash. So did Michael-from-school.
I find myself back in the noisy and packed college campus. He smiles at me widely and I realize that I must have been starring at him for quite a long time.
‘Do you ever regret falling for Kyra, Mike?’ I asked him.
He was taken aback. We hadn’t mentioned her name in a long while. His fascination with Humma Humma just got me thinking back on all of it.
He pauses for a while, thinks and then looks at me with an effortlessly charming smile.
I was glad that the smile was back. He deeply gazes at me for a good amount of time before answering. What I really wanted to ask him was this: Does it still hurt, Mike?
‘It’s been years, Bala and it’s just memories now, the good and the bad. I realize now that I lost the girl who gave me the hug somewhere along the way. Everything in life always has the possibility of going the wrong way, and sometimes, it’s not something you’re ready for, but life’s not what you plan, it’s what happens while you make the plans.’
His words were like magic. They were deep, matured and full of wisdom.
‘I do miss the hugs, the magic, but you don’t get a do-over with life, you just keep moving. Besides, she was still my first. My first heartbreak.’
I smile and nod at him. We stood there, sharing a comfortable space of silence. I realize that over the years, he had grown up gracefully.
He wasn’t the same adrenaline driven rebellious teenager I had known from school.
He was now a calm, composed and refined adult. He now sported a beard and a wise smile.
He gently turned around and caught the tall Barbie doll gracefully walking down the corridor.
‘Besides, I have no time to think about You-Know-Who. Cuz, Humma Humma is still on my crush list.’ His eyes sparkle and he throws a mischievous smile at me. ‘Probably on top.’
That was Michael.
He never let his heart break get into the way.
He fell over and over again, and it wasn’t just a trip. He fell hard. And yet he had his own principles and philosophies. He was daring and outgoing, but he was practical at the same time. He knew his limits.
He believed in a happy ending that many of us fail to see. He believed and still hopes that the right girl is just about the corner. At the same time, he also acknowledged the fact that he cannot risk falling for the wrong one again.
Michael was fearless when it came to love. He believed in fairy tales. He was ready to fall madly in love all over again. Even though he had been heartbroken before, he was willing to wait for the right one to come along.
Moving on and being alright even after being hurt, and being practical with our future actions at the very same time, takes a lot of courage.
I was proud of Michael for sporting that kind of courage.
‘Mike, look, Humma Humma is looking your way!’ I shriek as I notice the pair of high heels click a few steps away from us.
She looked at us for a solid three hundred seconds, before taking out her fancy pink mobile out of her purse. A tiny smile extended across her face as she dialed out to a number.
I was quite surprised when Michael’s phone started to ring. I could easily tell that he was shocked too.
‘Hello?’ he asked in a low and soft tone of voice.
Silence. I signaled him to put the call out on speaker.
‘Hello, who is this?’ Michael repeated.
‘Humma humma.’ Both of us recognized the voice instantly.
‘Humma Humma?’ Michael echoed in disbelief.
‘Yeah, isn’t that what you call me?’ the voice interrogated with a hint of irresistible romance.
If you clicked on this story just because it had a sizzling sensual title, sorry to have disappointed you, but I am impressed that you kept reading so far. Thank you for letting Mike and I share a piece of our lives with you.
And to all the concerned souls who read this just for the sake of hoping to find a plot twist somewhere in the middle of the story that I would’ve fallen for Michael or Michael would’ve fallen for me, sorry to have disappointed you too.
All the crap that they tell us about boys and girls having to keep their distances, and about friend zones, is just a huge pile of bull.
At the end of the day, we’re all looking for someone who just gets it.
Someone who understands and is always in sync with us. Someone who can tell us that certain decisions that we made were crap, straight to our face. Someone who can know all your deepest, darkest (and dirtiest) secrets, and still not judge you. Someone who already knows everything. And no, you don’t have to be romantically inclined towards that person.
You can call the relationship we share whatever you want. Sometimes we are brother and sister, sometimes are partners in crime, sometimes we are sworn enemies. In fact, there have also been times when we have been Guru and disciple.
It doesn’t matter what you tag us as.
You see, having a soul mate is not always about romance. It was, in fact, never about the romance. It means you have found someone around whom one can be the realest version of themselves.
The Bala that Michael knows is the truest version of Bala.
Michael is my best mate. He will always be.
The rest of you simply need to get your minds off the gutter.